On This Journey We Call Our Life: Living the Questions (2003)

One way of looking at this journey is to observe that psyche presents us with two large questions, one for the first half of life and one for the second. The question of the first half of life is essentially this: “What is the world asking of me?”
That is, what do I have to do to respond to the expectations of Mother and Father; and, later, how do I meet the demands of school, work and relationship? Our response requires the development of ego strength and an operational sense of self. We cannot know the Self, which is a metaphor for the organizing, purposive energies of psyche which have a life and a telos transcendent to consciousness. But we are challenged to gain some provisional, adaptive sense of identity in the world into which fate has thrust us.

The question of the second half of life, however, is quite different: “What, now does the soul ask of me?” When we recall that the word psyche, from the Greek, means “soul,” then we realize that we have shifted from a biological and social agenda in the first half of life, to a psychological and spiritual agenda in the second half.

Each of these questions is necessary for the development of personhood. First comes ego development and social participation, then comes the relocation of the ego in a larger context, a reframing by and in response to what is transcendent to the ego’s limited capacity. The person who has reached midlife and still not created an ego identity, and a stake in the social context, has much unfinished business. But the person who clings to the values and idols of the first half – youth, status, continuous reassurance from others – is locked into a regressive and self-alienating pattern in which he or she colludes in the violation of their soul and their summons. Thus, not only do we have questions, but life has questions for us.

The Middle Passage | Swamplands of the Soul | Tracking the Gods | Under Saturn's Shadow | The Eden Project | The Archetypal Imagination | Creating a Life | On This Journey We Call Our Life | Mythologems | Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life | Why Good People Do Bad Things | What Matters Most | Hauntings